Six Nations – France v Ireland – Preview, Starting team news – Kick off time 4:45pm Saturday

We preview France v Ireland on the opening day of the Six Nations, it’s a 4:45 pm kick off in the Stade de France.

Ireland go into their opening match of the 2018 Six Nations as short odds favourites to beat an enigmatic French team who could either play brilliantly or get well beat.  Rugby union betting odds make Ireland 4/9 and France 2/1.

With Leinster and Munster securing home Champions Cup quarter-finals Irish rugby is on a high and there being zero injury worries, this is probably going to be a very tough week for manager Joe Schmidt picking his best 15. Of the 36 players in the squad, 15 players have less than 10 Test caps. This is a great sign for our World cup ambitions.

Joe Schmidt “I’ve probably thought less about the tournament than I have in the last four years, I’ve thought more about France, I’ve thought more about us than I ever have because we’ve got the youngest squad we’ve had and it’s about investing in those players as much as we can in this very short window that we have to try to be competitive, hit the ground running and put our best performance together in that first 20 minutes in France, let alone 40 minutes, let alone 80.”

“This Six Nations we have the youngest squad we have had and there is a degree of excitement in that. It does not mean we change the way we play.

“It means some players will play slightly differently. We have got guys, you look at skill sets, at personnel, and you look at some of the players we had four years ago and you look at the new breed of forward that comes out of teams and their comfort level on the ball which allows them to play slightly differently.

Johnny Sexton: “It’s a little bit of going into the unknown for us. Whilst a lot of the players we are going to be playing against are similar, we’re not exactly sure how they’re going to play. So we really have to be ready to cover all bases and know their individual players really, really well because again we don’t know what sort of plays they’re going to play because of their new coaches so we’ve got to do more analysis on their players and know them inside out.”

Rob Kearney: “There’s always one team in round one who doesn’t turn up and unfortunately that was us last year. It can only take 20, 40 minutes like it did in Murrayfield so more so than this first round game we have a massive focus on the first 20, 30 minutes and that is all we are thinking about. I think we probably do have a better squad at the moment but if you look across at the other teams they are probably all strengthened as well. While we might be better, I think the opposition might be better, too.”

IRELAND Squad to play France – Stade de France, Saturday 3rd February, 2018

15. Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster) 78 caps
14. Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster) 62 caps
13. Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster) 31 caps
12. Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht) 2 caps
11. Jacob Stockdale (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) 4 caps
10. Johnny Sexton (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 68 caps
9. Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 59 caps

1. Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 73 caps
2. Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster) 106 caps  (captain)
3. Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 19 caps
4. Iain Henderson (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 34 caps
5. James Ryan (UCD/Leinster) 4 caps
6. Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) 42 caps
7. Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster) 9 caps
8. CJ Stander (Shannon/Munster) 18 caps

16. Sean Cronin (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 56 caps
17. Jack McGrath (St Mary’s College/Leinster) 42 caps
18. John Ryan (Cork Constitution/Munster) 11 caps
19. Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster) 53 caps
20. Dan Leavy (UCD/Leinster) 4 caps
21. Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster) 6 caps
22. Joey Carbery (Clontarf/Leinster) 6 caps
23. Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster) 32 caps


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